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3 Big Surprises about Help for Depression in Summer

July 6th, 2013 · 2 Comments · depression, help for depression

It might seem very strange to focus on help for depression in summer, when summer itself is supposed to help lift depression.

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But here’s the thing: for many people–it doesn’t.

In our culture, we hold up the icon of summer as a time of playful hedonism, typified by this classic song by Mungo Jerry:

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1. Summer Doesn’t Actually Make Everything O.K.

But for some who struggle with depression, the high summer can actually make things worse.  Season affective disorder, known as SAD, is common knowledge nowadays.  Canadians tend to associate it with the cold and short days of winter.  However, as the Mayo Clinic notes, and as research from India shows, SAD can be associated with oppressive summer heat.

That school is out can also contribute to depression for parental figures who find themselves at home with kids for whole days, day after day.  Also, teachers and college professors can find themselves subject to depression when, after a busy, demanding year, they suddenly find themselves at home with large expanses of time.

2.  The Symbol of the Burning Sun

For depth psychotherapy, another aspect of summer depression involves the symbolism of the summer sun at its most intense.  When the summer sun is at its most direct, and sweltering, it can make everything seem stark, bleak and lifeless.

The ancients used to refer to the experience of the sun in this bleak, piercing way as the “sol niger” — Latin for the “black sun”.  Below is an example of how they might typically have portrayed or symbolized it.

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Sometimes, for modern people, too, the hot sweltering high summer sun can symbolize or highlight experiences of bleakness, starkness or joylessness in our lives.

Could it be that the intensity of the sweltering sun symbolizes or highlights aspects of our lives that we might experience as bleak? Could it reveal our over-thinking, over-driveness, workaholism, excessive win-at-all costs intensity; or obsessiveness?

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3.  Other Summer Stressors

There are other stressors not directly related to the weather that can find us out in summer.

Summer can be a time of particular financial stress.  Activities such as vacations can take a great deal of money.  We can easily find ourselves in financial crunches related to summer plans — and sometimes, when we stop and ask ourselves, “Do I even really want to be doing this stuff?”,  a surprising answer may come back: “No!  I actually don’t!”

There’s a tide of collective sentiment that a certain way of spending the summer is what we really need to do if we want life to be fulfilling.  We may even end up saying  “I’m Supposed to be Having Fun, dammit!  What’s wrong with me?”

But it may well be that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me, and that, at the deepest level, I just want to live life in accord with my own nature.

Acceptance of the true self is a key part of the journey towards wholeness, and of genuine help for depression through meaningful individual therapy.

PHOTOS: AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved © 2006-2013 Pink Sherbet Photography ;  dreamattack ;  magnetbox VIDEO: © “In the Summertime” 1970 Mungo Jerry 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Jennifer (uk)

    Thank you for opening this important conversation; I do feel certain benefits of summer in the northern hemisphere; undoubtedly the increased light and warmth are helpful for our bodies and hormones – at the very least it is easier to be outside
    And the birdsong of early mornings and greening of the landscape is medicine on a deep level.
    And yet summer can indeed be a very, very lonely time, I have felt this strongly and it is painful. My relative isolation and lack of activity compared with what I might usually enjoy (festivals, gatherings, visits to the sea) and this year none of that is possible. As I am patently prevented by finances, anxiety and low energy.
    At times I fear for myself as I consider that autumn and winter are revolving towards us -not only have I ‘wasted’ the summer, but how can I face another season of cold, dark and extreme introversion?
    The best I can do, on a ‘good day’ is to take heart – with regards to all that summer represents; exuberance, fertility, growth and expansion, joy, good times and play; and see if I can acknowledge that the flow and aliveness that summer represents could once again be felt by me, if I can find the strength and courage to see this healing through.

  • Brian C

    Thank you for your comments, Jennifer. As you so well describe, summer can be a time of genuine difficulty for those struggling with anxiety and/or depression. The combination of finances, anxiety and low energy that you describe certainly characterize the experience of a reasonable number of people when confronted with the summer season.

    I strongly encourage you to continue with your journey inward to yourself, to see the healing through, as you put it so well.

    Thank you again for your very wise and astute comments.

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